Agenda and minutes

Children's Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee - Tuesday 16 March 2021 7.00 pm

Venue: To be held via Microsoft Teams https://bit.ly/3qsfqNy

Contact: Maria Burton, Democratic Services  020 7926 8703, Email: mburton2@lambeth.gov.uk

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Pecuniary Interest

    Under Standing Order 4.4, where any councillor has a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest (as defined in the Members’ Code of Conduct (para. 4)) in any matter to be considered at a meeting of the Council, a committee, sub-committee or joint committee, they must withdraw from the meeting room during the whole of the consideration of that matter and must not participate in any vote on that matter unless a dispensation has been obtained from the Monitoring Officer.

    Minutes:

    Simon Funnell stated that, although not a pecuniary interest, he was a Governor at a Lambeth school.

     

    While not a pecuniary interest, Councillor Pickard stated that a member of her family was going through the Special Guardianship process in Lambeth, but that she did not have a prejudiced view as a result of this.

     

2.

Minutes of the Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 190 KB

    To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2021 as a correct record of the proceedings.

    Minutes:

    RESOLVED: That the minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2021 were approved as a correct record of proceedings.

     

3.

Children's Services response to COVID-19 pdf icon PDF 1 MB

    (All Wards)

     

    Contact for enquiries: Cathy Twist, Director, Education and Learning

    Minutes:

     

    The Chair opened the item by thanking officers for their work and dedication over the last year.

     

    The Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ed Davie, Strategic Director for Children’s Services, Merlin Joseph, and Director for Children’s Social Care, Alex Kubeyinje, introduced the report, stating that:

    ·         They thanked officers, school staff, children and families for their work and support during an unprecedented period.

    ·         In addition to support from central government, the Council had provided over 5,000 laptops and wi-fi access points, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for schools, 23 new school streets, had assisted all 90 Lambeth schools in completing risk assessments, provided additional allowances for Foster Carers, provided food during school holidays and launched a crowdfunder that had raised over £15,000 for laptops for Lambeth children.

    ·         Despite the pandemic, performance in Children’s Social Care had improved in the last year.

    ·         There had been a 350% increase in care proceedings since March 2020.

    ·         There would be new challenges for the department and schools as children returned to school.

    ·         Throughout the pandemic, a child-centred and risk-based approach had been used.  Multi-agency meetings and in-person visits continued, and a critical safeguarding team was established to focus on the children of most concern.

    ·         As well as work directly related to pandemic response, other workstreams continued, including supporting families with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), increasing funding for semi-independent living, and creating an edge of care service.

     

    Angel, a care-experienced young person and member of the Children in Care Council, then addressed the Sub-Committee, stating that:

    ·         She had spent the majority of lockdown attending online lectures, and had become more involved with her local church youth group to maintain a social life.  She had found cooking and gardening enjoyable and relaxing, particularly when university work felt overwhelming.

    ·         Assistance from Lambeth had been consistent, with her Personal Advisor contacting her regularly, and she had felt able to raise any issues with him.  The Council had sent her a Christmas card, which had been an appreciated personal gesture.

    ·         He foster carer had been a great support, especially when she found lockdown difficult.

     

    The Sub-Committee then heard from Robert, a foster carer, who provided the following:

    ·         The Council had supported foster carers over the year, including providing 24/7 support for foster carers, sending letters granting them key worker status to ensure they were able to access priority shopping hours, providing training, granting additional allowances due to the cost of being at home all day and providing £15 per month towards internet payments to ensure home learning could be supported.

    ·         Lambeth was one of the first local authorities to offer vaccination to foster carers in line with key workers.

    ·         The foster carers’ handbook would be digitised by 01 April 2021, and Lambeth was the first council to do this.

    ·         He hoped that the 24/7 emergency support and weekly advice surgeries with Children’s Social Care management would continue indefinitely, as foster carers had valued this support.

    ·         Foster carers were now feeling truly appreciated by the council, and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.

4.

Pupil Place Planning and Impact on School Capacities pdf icon PDF 964 KB

    (All Wards)

     

    Contact for enquiries: Cathy Twist, Director, Education and Learning / Jo Sullivan Lyons, AD Education Strategy

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    The report was introduced by the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ed Davie, Director, Education and Learning, Cathy Twist, and Assistant Director, Education Strategy, Access and Inclusion, Jo Sullivan Lyons, who stated that:

    ·         The number of children being born in Lambeth was falling after a number of years of increasing birth rate and the need for school expansions.  It was likely that the falling population of the borough would accelerate due to changing living patterns as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    ·         The Council wanted to avoid closing schools, and aimed to do so by using school buildings flexibly.  Other key goals were to ensure that there remained a choice of schools, and that schools were no more than a buggy ride away.

    ·         Any changes to schools needed to be implemented fairly across the borough, considering the needs of children, parents and the 8,000 school staff.

    ·         The areas of the borough most affected by population changes were in the centre and north of the borough, with primary schools particularly affected.  This trend would affect all areas of the borough in the future.

    ·         Since 2014 there had been a 25% reduction in the number of births in the borough, a trend seen across London.  As well as the falling birth rate, the current Year 6 cohort was 9,8% smaller than it was in Reception, likely as a result of families moving out of London.

    ·         19 primary schools across the borough had agreed to reduce their Published Admissions Number (PAN) from September 2022, but more reductions in primary schools were needed.  Reductions in the PAN for secondary schools would be needed from September 2023.

    ·         Special schools would not be affected by PAN reductions due to growing demand for places in special schools.

     

    The Sub-Committee then heard from Chris Ashley-Jones, Headteacher of Hitherfield Primary School and Member of the Lambeth Schools Partnership (LSP), who provided the following information:

    ·         The LSP set up a working party on pupil place planning in 2020, with schools grouped by town centre.

    ·         Even in popular schools, the number of children applying for places was falling.

    ·         Teachers and parents cared for and wanted to protect their schools from closure.

     

    Officers the provided the following information in response to questions from Members:

    ·         Schools already used formal partnerships as a method of reducing costs, particularly on staffing.

    ·         Each class of children provided income to schools for activities, school trips, and subject options.  Schools would be expected to maintain their offer to pupils.

    ·         Although the Council had affordable housing targets, and the temporary £20 Universal Credit uplift had provided additional support for families, a real living wage was needed to address poverty in the borough. A new Child Poverty Strategy was in development.

    ·         The Council maintained contact with families that home educated their children. If parents decided to re-enter their child into mainstream education, officers would work with the family to find a place as quickly as possible.

    ·         Officers were working with early years providers to ensure their financial  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

2020/21 Children's Services Scrutiny Sub-Committee Work Programme pdf icon PDF 538 KB

    (All wards)

     

    Contact for enquiries: Maria Burton, Democratic Services, Legal and Governance; mburton2@lambeth.gov.uk, 020 7926 8703

     

    Additional documents:

    Minutes:

    Sub-Committee Members suggested the following areas for potential future scrutiny:

    ·         The outcome of the Ofsted inspection due later in 2021.

    ·         The IICSA inquiry.

    ·         Fostering Strategy.

    ·         SEND Strategy.

    ·         Child Poverty Strategy.

    ·         An update on Pupil Place Planning later in 2021.

    ·         An update on the digital crowdfund.

    ·         Safety for girls and young women, including safety on streets.

    ·         Youth Strategy.

    ·         Curriculum planning, including decolonising the curriculum.

    ·         UNICEF child-friendly city accreditation.

    ·         Reintroduction of formal examinations and how schools would be supported.

     

    RESOLVED:

    That the work programme be noted.